Aussie travellers warned to be on guard for visa changes

Let’s be honest: when planning a holiday, it’s far more fun to look at cute hotels and day trips than it is to read through government-issued information.

But like it or not, staying on top of entry requirements for your destination is essential, unless you fancy an uncomfortable chat with border control refusing to let you into (or out of) the country.

And even though Australians hold one of the strongest passports in the world, it doesn’t mean we always get a free pass.

Visa changes

Travel insurer Fast Cover points out that just as the travel landscape is always evolving, so too are visa regulations.

In fact, countries can make significant changes to their entry requirements at any time, so even if you’ve been to a destination before, it’s important to check whether anything has changed since your last visit.

Take Chile. Though it wasn’t the case in the past, Australians planning a layover in Chile now need a transit visa. The country is also strict when it comes to departing travellers, with cases of Australians required to remain airside for several days due to missed connections.

Similarly, a change coming into force later this year will be the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), through which Australians will be required to obtain a visa waiver in order to enter most European countries.

Brazil, meanwhile, which had announced plans to re-introduce a visa program from this year – including a proof of income requirement – has just pushed back the start date to 2025.

Of course, not all changes are troublesome. Last year, Vietnam increased the number of days Australians can sty on an e-visa from 30 days to 90, with unlimited entries and exits. That’s definitely worth knowing about.

To find out about entry requirements for specific destinations, head to Smartraveller, or contact the country’s local embassy or consulate.

Get yourself in order

When sorting out your eligibility to travel overseas, you also need to consider your personal circumstances, starting with your passport, says University of Technology Sydney adjunct fellow in tourism David Beirman.

“The first thing people need to understand is that even though they get an Australian passport for 10 years, it’s really only good for nine and a half,” says Beirman, explaining that many countries only allow entry if you have at least six months’ validity on your passport.

The reason behind this is that a traveller whose passport is nearing its expiry date “might overstay their welcome,” he continues. “They want to make sure [tourists] go back to where they came from. Even countries that are generally very friendly to us get very snooty about that particular requirement.”

Beirman also warns Australian permanent residents to check their eligibility for returning to Australia if they leave.

“A lot of people take it for granted that when they get permanent residency, it’s there forever and ever,” he says. “But you’ve got to renew it every five years or so, at considerable cost.”

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